Lao Tzu

Religious Figure / Philosopher

Born: c. 600 B.C.
Died: c. 200 B.C.
Birthplace: China
Best known as: Legendary founder of Taoism

Also spelled Laozi or Lao Tsu

Legendary name at birth: Li Erh

According to legend, Lao Tzu ("old man" or "old sage") was the ancient author of Tao Te Ching, the most widely translated Chinese work of all time and the classic book of the religion or philosophy known as Taoism. Scholars disagree whether Lao Tzu was a real person or a pen name for the writers of Tao Te Ching, which is often called "the Lao tzu." A general history of China from the first century B.C. describes Lao Tzu as an older contemporary and teacher of Confucius (551-479 B.C.). It says he wrote the two-volume Tao Te Ching at the request of the keeper of a "pass" while on a westward journey. Compared to Confucius, who focuses on right relations in human society, Lao Tzu takes a more mystical approach to tuning into the natural order of things as a way of achieving personal and social harmony.

Extra credit: An ancient biography says Lao Tzu's name at birth was Li Erh... Tao Te Ching, sometimes called the "book of five thousand characters," is also spelled Dao De Jing or Daode Jing... Tao means "way" or "path,"; te means "virtue," and ching means "laws," so the title of the Lao tzu is translated variously as The Way and its Power, The Classic of the Way of Virtue, and The Law (or Canon) of Virtue and its Way... Tai Chi, or Tai Chi Chuan, a form of movement and meditation, is thought to be a physical expression of the principles of Taoism.

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